Creating an outdoor patio is one of the best investments you can make in your family's lifestyle.
So let's assume you know how to hold a hammer and what a nail looks like and go from there. Here are 10 of the top time and labor-saving tips you can use to build a patio you'll be proud to show off.
1. Without careful planning, your perfect patio could turn into a nightmare. Consider exactly where the patio is going to be located and the dimensions, and then measure it out using builder's chalk or a small stake and tape at each of the boundaries. Add an extra meter to allow for the roof overhang.
Make sure there are no obstructions that can't easily be dealt with.
2. Decide on the type of materials you plan to use and then go out and price them. You may find that the relatively inexpensive holiday or weekend project you had planned is going to go way over budget.
If you intend enclosing your outdoor patio, concrete masonry blocks are a relatively inexpensive option - particularly if you use a masonry chisel to split each block in half. A cheerful coat of paint or render can make all the difference.
3. Design and plan your outdoor patio with low maintenance in mind. This is an area for relaxation, so you don't need to spend every weekend battling to keep it clean.
4. If your outdoor pergola is going to be attached to the house, work out how you are going to do that. You may need to consult a builder or patio specialist before you do any damage to your home's exterior.
5. Research, research, research. Visit your local library for as many DIY building manuals as you can lay your hands on, or look for magazines that specialize in outdoor patios and pergolas. The more you know, the easier your job will be.
6. Decide if your outdoor patio room is going to include electrical equipment. If you intend to add a TV or stereo unit, plan where these items will be placed and have a qualified electrician install the wiring.
7. Lighting is another major consideration if you want a covered pergola. How much lighting does the area need and what type of lighting is appropriate? Once again, you will need to call on the services of an electrician to install the wiring.
8. To allow for adequate drainage, most builders suggest a site slope of 0.5cm per 30cm away from the house. You also need to consider guttering if the roof is flat so that water drains away from the patio.
9. When all else fails, call in a contractor. Sure, we all start with the best of intentions, but sometimes the best-laid plans come unstuck for reasons beyond our control.
Don't persist when you know you're in trouble -- although a qualified builder is going to cost you more than you may have originally budgeted for, trying to overcome an issue that is beyond your capabilities and knowledge can cost you a heck of a lot more.
And when your carefully considered and brilliantly executed outdoor pergola is built, take the time to congratulate yourself on a job well done and toast your success with a well-earned beer!